Senator Eileen Flynn critical of Gardaí response to Traveller discrimination
The Ballyfermot Senator said that An Garda Síochána "don't want to deal with discrimination".
Senator Eileen Flynn has said she was subjected to prejudicial discrimination on Wednesday evening when a taxi man refused to drop her off at her final destination, a halting site in Ballyfermot.
Speaking to JOE.ie, Senator Flynn detailed the experience in which, despite having ample money to pay the fare, the taxi driver said "he wouldn't go in there because of the caravans".
The dispute was eventually settled after a phone call to An Garda Síochána. However, the Senator, who is herself a member of the Travelling community, was still critical of the Gardaí's response.
Refusing to pay the taxi fare owing to the fact she was not brought to her final destination, the taxi driver threatened the public representative with ringing the Gardaí.
Although, Ms. Flynn then took matters into her own hands. "I told him 'no, you're the one committing the crime here'. So I was the one who called the Gardaí. But when I told the operator what had happened, he responded by saying it was a waste of their time".
The operator had a swift change of heart though when the Senator made her Seanad role known; "I told them that it wasn't a waste of the Guards time and then said that I'm a public representative... he then went on loud speaker and started questioning the taxi man as to why he wouldn't drop me home".
Eventually making her way home after the uncomfortable incident, Ms. Flynn says that this is not the first occasion in which she has experienced discrimination based on her links to the Travelling community.
"Being a member in Leinster House you wouldn't think that this stuff happens, but actually it does. You get tired of it..."
"There's no explanation from being refused entry from a restaurant or other business based on your accent. People around Dublin know I'm a member of the travelling community from my accent... I've had enough by this point, it wasn't the first time that this experience happened to me or to other members of the travelling community".
Why is the travelling community being targeted?:
"We are all being painted with the same brush", remarked Senator Flynn, who feels that people unfairly judge the Travelling community for the acts of a small minority.
"What happens in the settled community also happens in the Travelling community. There's fights, feuds and anti-social behaviour of course, but that's also in the settled community as well. Unfortunately though when it happens in a certain area, the media plays a huge role in the stereotyping of travellers".
Also calling for better education for people to enlighten on them on the realities of being a member of the Travelling community, Ms. Flynn wants to see reforms introduced to the justice system too.
"I think we should have a better justice system where travellers can take cases with free legal aid and get the support they need against a company or an individual who have discriminated against them".
"I think we need more than money, we need actions. They (government) are great at giving out money but they aren't good at spending it in a meaningful way", Ms. Flynn added.
The Seanad member also discussed her role in bringing about legislature change such as the upcoming hate crime legislation which will be brought before the Seanad in a number of weeks time.
This legislation "is just one step in the right direction though" according to Ms. Flynn, who feels that if wholesale changes are to occur within society, then these changes must start from within An Garda Síochána.
Critical of the Government's and Gardaí's responses:
"I think we have to look at our justice system first, because otherwise it's never going to stop", lamented Ms. Flynn.
"You might be able to educate people but we also have to remember that there will always be hatred in the world and that's a reality, it's always going to happen, so we need to deal with it. But I don't think the Gardaí want to deal with discrimination".
Detailing another discriminatory incident back in 2017 when a member of the force shouted a slur through a car window, Ms. Flynn recalled how despite a GSOC investigation, nothing was ever done to punish the person involved.
"Hopefully with the new hate crime legislation coming through, they (the Gardaí) will have no choice but to deal with discrimination and deal with the hateful attacks that we see".
Despite not having had the best experiences in the past with An Garda Síochána, Ms. Flynn was adamant that she would still urge those who have been subjected to discriminatory behaviour to report it to them.
"I would still encourage anybody who has experienced racism or discrimination to call the Gardaí on the spot, because it is their job to protect the public".
Though it is not just An Garda Síochána who the Ballyfermot Senator feels can improve their attitude towards the Travelling community, but the government also.
"There's over 200 people in both houses of government, and in my opinion there's about a dozen people who genuinely care about human rights and equality", an exasperated Ms. Flynn said.
Concluding her recounting of events, the Seanad member added that if any sort of meaningful change in attitudes amongst the Gardaí was to occur, then those in Leinster House must lead from the front.
"I think our parliament has a long way to go and if you want to put an end to racism and discrimination, then the government needs to start putting measures in place to protect people".
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